The Sea Dragon left Yokohoma port on Sunday and we have been sailing for five days!! The GPS puts us 33° 15.9′ North, 151° 3.6′ East. Over 1000km of the coast for Japan, but much farther south than we intended, though at the mercy of the winds this is our best course! We’ll be heading north east soon to intercept the Tsunami Debris field.
There’s been some pretty uncomfortable sailing, heavy rain at times. With around half the crew seasick…Reporting some minor damage to the boat, an unexpected swell tore one of our four life rings from the rail. Everyone has pretty much settled in though and we are keeping three hour watches, 24 hours a day.
Our experienced seafarer Stiv puts it this way:
“the rain is washing our stomach contents from Sea Dragon’s sides without the aid of the hose. Slowly, the crew is coming back to life after serious bouts with seasickness that claimed about half the crew, and put them DOWN. The Aussi is well, as are the Brits, but the Korean and the Swiss are having a rough go. The rest are about a five on a scale of ten.”
Finally, today it’s sunny in patches, with an easy swell, we are enjoying the best sailing so far, the crew are mostly on deck, hanging up some washing and the last bananas have been consumed in the form of banana bread. Micro plastic sampling has started and we are keeping a log of large debris spotted. We have also collected our first water samples for Woods Hole Institute.
I can begin to imagine what the world was like before we left our mark, watching this ocean slip by, an awesome expanse of wilderness and natural beauty. Unfortunately another piece of plastic pollution drifts past interrupting my fantasy.
After a week’s lay up in Yokohama we are finally making last preparations for departure… Fingers crossed!
It’s raining here and we’ve taken on last provisions.
Typhoon Mawar has passed and our weather window is open, it’ll be reasonably heavy going with gusts up to 35 knots and a decent swell, but the Sea Dragon was built to race around the globe so the boat can handle it and Rodrigo the skipper is capable and experienced. We on the other hand may be a bit green for the first few days. If weather keeps building we could be stuck again.. and I’m out of Yen :)
The alternator on the main engine has been replaced, with an improvised part, we have adapted a CAT alternator to fit a Perkins engine. (Although now the rev counter is not working, we’ll have to judge revs by ear)
Our generator and water maker is up and running again, some of our samples need to be kept frozen, so the ability to generate power is paramount.
Passports have been stamped by immigration, for the second time… we are now officially confined to port until we set sail.
The last stumbling block aside from weather is that Nick, one of the scientists on board has come down with a mystery ailment, while we clear the last formalities with the port he has been bundled off to the doctor for a diagnosis and hopefully a simple prescription so we can get going. We can’t afford to lose any more time or else the objectives of the expedition may be compromised.
Marcus the expedition leader from 5 Gyres is confident if we leave today we’ll make the projected tsunami debris field with time to spare. We need that time to conduct effective sampling and searches for large debris.
Keeping effective watch is going to be a critical safety concern, the 66ft section of dock that washed up in Oregon highlights this, regardless of waterproof bulkheads and the like a collision with a piece of debris this size could be disastrous.
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
The Japanese media are here, ready to send us off, though I’m not sure I’ll really believe we are on our way until we are in international waters.
UPDATE! WEATHER BUILDING DELAYED AGAIN!
As I type this Rodrigo our skipper has updated the weather status, 4.5 meter swell strong headwinds, his opinion is departure today would be stupid. Rodrigo says when in higher latitudes you really have to watch your departure timing, if you don’t want to “get your arse kicked by the weather”
Looks like regardless of the outcome with Nick and his mystery ailment we will be unlikely to depart today.
Safety first. I’m happy to delay if the skipper says so.
We’ve now been on the Sea dragon for a week, settling in and waiting for our weather window to open to allow departure.
The major hold up has been Typhoon Mawar (Rose) which has killed eight in the Phillipines and is currently heading towards our projected course.
This storm is pretty wild, with gusts up to 130mph!! We certainly don’t want to experience those kind of conditions at sea.
One person with no choice but to weather the storm is British adventurer Sarah Outen, who is currently in the path of the storm in her attempt to row solo across the Pacific. Sarah is buckling down in the face of Mawar. It will be intense though Sarah and her state of the art carbon-fibre boat should stand up to the pounding.
Sarah Outen's current location, in the path of typhoon Mawar
Sea Dragon may attempt to rendezvous with Sarah to offer assistance (and chocolate) if she requires it. Her position is not too far from our first way-point. After her ordeal friendly faces may be welcome.
Life in the harbour has been exciting too, with dodgy shipping agents trying to fleece us and clearing immigration only to be delayed and having to get our passports re stamped.. effectively we have entered Japan twice without leaving!
Not much to do now except to read, spend some time writing and waiting for typhoon Mawar to let us on our way.
Clean ups really make me mad, not doing them but the fact that they have to be done. It amazes me that the human race has come so far but we still don’t seem to be able to dispose of our litter and waste properly.
I’m one of the owners of Master Divers which is a dive centre located on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand. It’s a small island that sees a lot of visitors and it angers me that some just don’t take care. After all people visit because it’s beautiful: so why leave your rubbish on the beach where you have been lounging all day? Who do you think is going to pick it up? Clearly this is not everyone but it only takes a small percentage. Don’t they realize their rubbish is likely to end up in the ocean destroying the marine life that you have come here to snorkel and dive with ?
A particular example of this would be a small cove on Koh Tao called Laem Thien. This little bay once played host to a resort which has since been abandoned. The road is overgrown but it makes a great hike and it’s often visited by members of our team. The resort is like a ghost town and spooky but great fun. Visitors hike there too and we have noticed on our visits that the resort has accumulated a lot of plastic bottles and other general rubbish which apparently visitors to the bay have left. I’m not sure who they thought would take them away or why, as the bottles were empty, it was such a hassle to carry them back. We have made this cove our pet project now and regularly go to clean it up. On our last trip we collected, amongst many other things, 7 large rubbish bags full of just plastic bottles alone. We have now sited large bins and notices so atleast the rubbish is safe from reaching the ocean.
This nicely brings me to the next topic that makes my blood boil, single use plastic! The relationship to its consumption and any clean up you will have participated in is direct. If not, spend 30 min with 2 hands clearing up and you’ll almost certainly see what I mean. Thailand has yet to lay down any rules regarding plastic bags so the amount consumed is immense add to that the fact that tap water isn’t safe to drink and you have a plastic mountain. As we all know plastic bags are extremely dangerous to marine life and plastic in general is infected our day to lives at an alarming rate. So while I certainly do agree we need to keep our environment tidy and waste free, if we limited our waste to start with we wouldn’t be feeding the cycle. And you know what – this isn’t difficult to do !
Personally the team have looked at their lives and minimized as much single use plastic as they can. In our house we use large returnable and refillable drinking water containers, refill our toiletries bottles, use a mineral stick deodorant and carry re-usable cloth shopping bags for groceries etc… We’ve implemented similar measures in our dive centre too. Free water refills are available and divers are encouraged to use our re-usable take-away pots when going out for take-away. We provide re-usable beakers for those who pop out to get a refreshing fruit shake from the nearby vendors too. We sell branded cloth bags with a no plastic message and we use them in the day-to-day dive centre tasks too. We think carefully about each purchase and don’t buy, for example, single service coffee sachets. We lobby suppliers where possible; our t-shirt supply doesn’t individually wrap in plastic anymore which was a huge win!
Education on the issue is key. We explain the issue to every guest; we have also created a t-shirt to help spread the message too. We have filmed a short video and are currently very involved with an island wide project to limit the use of plastic straws; as more bars and restaurants get involved more want to be involved.
We have been delayed again, our alternator still has not arrived and there is a typhoon heading up the Japanese coast, 30 knot winds forecast.
For now we’ll sit tight and wait for our opportunity to leave Yokohoma.
Supplies are still being stowed, and Stiv is cooking the first dinner on board, chicken curry with a vegetarian option.
This evening Rodrigo our skipper will brief us on safety gear and procedures, if someone was to go overboard rescue is unlikely, so instead we concentrate on keeping everyone on the right side of the lifeline.
As our departure date has been put back to 2nd of June some of the expedition team decided to head north towards Fukushima and give some time volunteering at tsunami cleanup.
Furnished with a handy volunteer guide in Japanese, Marcus our expedition leader from 5 Gyres, secured our insurance cards, some safety gear and booked our bus tickets.
Akira from the Japanese broadcaster NHK was invaluable with information and advice, he even came to the rescue when yours truly left his audio recorder on a railway platform and managed to return it before our bus left Yokohoma!
The area most needing assistance is near Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, which until April has been part of the exclusion zone around the failed nuclear reactor.
This area is surreal, like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, devoid of people. Smashed infrastructure, houses and vehicles mark the landscape, reminders of the power of the sea. Mr Suzuki, who helped look after us during the cleanup said the cars with number plates still attached indicated their owners were still unaccounted for.
It is a snapshot of what the Japanese coastline looked like shortly after the tsunami hit, with nature slowly taking over. Now this area has been opened again the survivors who chose to return are now slowly rebuilding their homes and cleaning up their properties.
Our arrival at the volunteer center initially caused some confusion amongst the administration who were not set up to cater for international volunteers. Fortunately they were impressed to see we already had our insurance cards and were able to find some English speakers among the Japanese volunteers to help out.We were assigned to clear a drainage ditch around Kazuko Sakaida’s house which just escaped being destroyed by the Tsunami. Kazuko saw the wave approaching, flooding her fields and almost reaching her door. She has been unable to return here until recently, being kept away due to high radiation levels.
Kazuko bought us snacks and drinks in appreciation of our efforts.
Marcus from 5 Gyres is also an accomplished sculptor, with work in the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago. Kazuko agreed to let him cast her hand as part of an ongoing project on plastic pollution. With bemusement she knelt on her hardwood floor waiting for the cast to set. Kazuko was fascinated with the detail in the resulting positive of her hand.
The Japanese people possess an incredible resilience, this is apparent in the survivors and volunteers still working on rebuilding after the tsunami and nuclear disaster. It was an honour for us to be accepted by these people and to feel their warmth and appreciation . Working side by side with Mr Suzuki and the other Japanese volunteers was a great experience, one I will carry for a long time to come.
“Your storage space will be in a box next to your bunk, dimensions – 50cm x 40cm x 26cm”
Really? Wow. Trying to minimize my pack list for the month at sea has been a challange. If I wasn’t committed to documenting the voyage I think I could meet the space limitation, though the x220, cameras an audiod recording gear take up more space than my personal supplies!
Tokyo is great, very interesting from a plastic pollution perspective. Vending machines are everywhere! They even dispense beer. What surprised me is every vending machine has it’s own recycling bin. Is this a legal requirement?
This has an obvious impact on reducing the beverage container pollution in urban areas, though we know Japan has a beverage container pollution problem on the coast.. So where is the local contribution coming from? I have some ideas on that.. will follow up after some more detective work.
Joining the 5 Gyres/Algalita Marine Research Foundation 2012 Japanese Tsunami Debris Expedition has meant acquiring some new gear, my 4 year old laptop just couldn’t cope anymore. Goodbye trusty friend. The learning curve in new software and gear is a small challenge, have to get up to speed before we sail. Thanks to Lenovo and Adobe for supporting Two Hands Project with gear and imaging software.
While in Tokyo we are staying in “Fight House” a previously abandoned building which housed survivors after the 2011 tsunami, it is now used to house kids visiting Tokyo from the country for sporting events.
Meeting the team has been a blast, we have a diverse crew from as far afield as Switzerland and Brazil! I’ll introduce them in upcoming entries.
Our Japanese hosts have been wonderful, and hosted a party for the expedition team, great food and an abundance of beer.
One of the highlights so far was attending the Symposium on plastic pollution at Tokyo university. Great presentations all round, the science being conducted in Japan on this issue is impressive, and somewhat surprising given the heavy use of plastic packaging here!
Captain Charles Moore of Algalita Marine Research Foundation joined us in Tokyo to present at the symposium. It was great to meet the man who is credited to alerting the world on the existence massive plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre.
Our wonderful supporters have donated a whole lot of awesome experiences and products for our fundraising event at Murrays at Manly on the 15th May. We will have a raffle, silent auction and a live auction run by auctioneer Andrew Lutze from Cunninghams and MC, Wendy Harmer, comedian and editor of The Hoopla.
Out on the frontier of the Great Barrier Reef exists a coral cay island ‘Lady Elliot’ where the coral reef is alive and teaming with life, where hands-on adventure and exploration are keys to this Australian holiday experience in a declared ‘Marine National Park Zone’. It’s a special wild kind of a place where people come from all over the world and yet fit together, blend together within minutes of meeting each other through a common need. That need is to be closer to nature and experience the environment and it’s creatures.
Stay overnight at Worrowing Eco Hut, a secluded studio style luxury cabin on 250 acre property neighbouring Jervis Bay National Park, self contained 1 queen bed, double spa bath, kangaroos & nature at your door.Only 3.5 min to beach or lake & the perfect coastal hideaway. Eco Hut Queen bed self contained studio,with double spa ,overlooking a natural bush setting in a secluded location with kangaroos ,wallabies and wildlife at your doorstep , neighbouring Jervis Bay National Park and nestled between the pristine waterways of St Georges Basin and Jervis Bay . Exclusive to couples and the perfect getaway experience. (value $275)
Worrowing Eco Hut
While you are in Jervis Bay you’ll also get two adult tickets from Extreme Whale & Dolphin Watch Cruises …very cool indeed, if you go in October you may catch some whales with calves! (value up to $160)
Extreme Whale Watching
After all the action you’ll have built up an appetite so enjoy your lunch at Pilgrims Wholefood Café, yum! (value $40).
For Scuba diving. One for you& your buddy – not more toxic single use cyalume glowsticks on your nightdives!
This photo degrading Monster was found by Ben Ware in the Whitsundays – on a clean up with Two Hands Project Founders Paul & Silke.
From being a careless fishermen, Ben has turned around and dedicated his life to cleaning up the Whitsundays. Check out his Whitsundays Plastic Pollution Page. Just Ben and his Two Hands, in the little dinghy “Tintanic” – day in day out. He is a true inspiration – Taking Two Hands in his own hands, just what it’s intended to be.Anyone heading to the Whitsundays, interested in beach cleaning should look him up.
*Driftwood Puppet by Angelika Treichler (reserve $200)
Angelika’s ideas were inspired by her art studies, she learned about Picasso’s, Schwitters’ and Duchamp’s ways of working with L’Objet Trouve’ or ‘Found Art’ – Instead of creating your artwork from a preconceived idea, you start your work from a found object, that is not usually considered art. Something you find in your environment such as household objects or, in this case, things from the natural environment.“I hope that my puppets inspire others to come up with good environmental art.”
All pieces of driftwood found under Manly Wharf, right where our famous Little Penguins nest.
*Silent auction items.
*WHALEWATCHING family pass Sydney Adventure Cruises (value $215) (2 adults and 2 kids) Have a whale of a time with the whole Family!
We are still accepting donations of awesome items for an auction on the night, experiences/activities are great, no plastic packaging a must. Pre loved items of value are also encouraged :) email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can contribute to the auction pool!
If you are in Sydney we’d love to see you at Murray’s at Manly on the 15th May! Tell all your friends!
You can still support the voyage even if you can’t make the fundraiser by contributing on our crowdfunding page at indiegogo.com/tsunamisurvey or by clicking the Paypal Donate tab on the right of this page.
Two Hands Project founder Paul and co-founder Silke
The Two Hands Project team, Paul Sharp (founder) and Silke Stuckenbrock (co-founder), were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sail around the Whitsundays as part of a week long Two Hands Project.
Paul was interviewed by Channel Whitsundays while there:
We found alot of bottle caps, bottles and toothbrushes during our clean ups.
Some of the plastic pollution in the Whitsundays
It’s a a remarkable thing to note that – of all the beaches that the Two Hands Project team have seen in Australia (and we have seen quite a few) – several of the beaches in the Whitsundays were the worst affected by plastic pollution.
Two Hands Project Team with Ben Ware from Whitsundays Plastic Pollution
We also got the chance to go diving and snorkelling too, so it wasn’t all clean ups and no play ;)
Two Hands Project Founder Paul with Ben Ware from Whitsundays Plastic Pollution...and some of the plastic collected in the tinny behind the boat
We were taken around the Whitsundays by local Ben Ware: awesome guide, passionate on solving the problem of plastic pollution in the Whitsundays and genuine all round decent human being. You can see more of what Ben does on his Facebook Page: Whitsundays Plastic Pollution.